With Brain’s return on Friday, we were able to shoot a quick video and get it up. But despite the lack of preparation, it wound up being somewhat lengthy for a couple of reasons.

We had received a request for a shop visit from a couple of guys in Tokyo Japan. Actually one of them lives in Palos Verdes at the moment. We are getting a lot of visitors these days but we agreed to meet with them. They came and stayed for three days over a weekend.

I was stationed in Japan on the USS Midway and for 44 months we were home ported in Yokosuka. The Midway is now a museum in San Diego and undoubtedly I should be as well.

Things have changed a bit in Japan as well over the past 35 years. The party arrived and were quite intent on examining every detail of our two 356 Speedsters. Eventually we took them on an hour long country drive in each of them. I was pleased they agreed with me on the better car – Speedster Duh.

Brain likes power and performance and the rebuild of the original Speedster allowed he and Matt Hauber to build a 150 mile car that would do 0-60 in 6.5 seconds at 2400 lbs. It allowed me to dynamometer an actual installation of a Netgain Warp 9 and the then newish EVnetics Soliton1 controller, so I was good with it. But the net effect delt to me as if we’d dropped a small block V8 in a Porsche. Greater torque down lower, and heavy. Yes, it accelerates very briskly – not Tesla style but it feels strong. But the car is a bit ponderous to my tastes. And the real Porsche speedsters, like the MG’s are made to dance at higher RPM’s – 4000 or 4500. They’re really quite poor performers at 2500-3000 rpm where the Soliton/Netgain combination shines.

So it never did feel “correct” to me.

Speedster Duh, on the other hand, is quite trim at 2040 lbs and with the Hi Performance Vehicle Systems package of their AC-50 motor and the Curtis controller, it actually DOES dance around up around 4000-5000 rpm and IS a little pokey at low rpms. I’ve grown very fond of this package for cars under 2500 lbs, but the 0-60 is more like 11 seconds – quite impressive compared to the specs of a genuine 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster, but not competitive with today’s super cars.

I guess I’m just not in that much of a hurry. Because the feel of the car and the feel of the road is so sensual, I kind of feel like Im running my fingertips over the road ahead – feeling every angle and every pebble as I drive. And so this is not only my favorite electric build, it is probably the best car I’ve ever driven in almost all respects.

[jwplayer file=”news072012-iPhone.m4v” hd.file=”news072012-1280.mov” image=”http://media3.ev-tv.me/news072012.jpg” streamer=”rtmp://s3einxnpkaij93.cloudfront.net/cfx/st/” provider=”rtmp” html5_file=”http://media3.ev-tv.me/news072012-1280.mov”]

Environmentally, well it’s a Speedster from 1957. Creature comforts, air conditioning, bluetooth, and power windows just weren’t a thing with this car. If you wanted those, you bought a loaded Cadillac, at slightly less money at that in those days.

Fifty five years later, we have Speedsters and Cadillacs in the same shop and with the same relationship.

These two guys from Japan were forming a new venture specifically to market Speedsters to young drivers in Tokyo. They had already decided on the Speedster and had apparently surveyed every Speedster replica manufacturer in the book. They were already set on electric driver, but Tokyou DOES get hot in July and cold in February, just like Cape Girardeau really – very similar climate. And so they kept talking about rollup windows and hard tops and even rather firmly suggesting that we convert a coupe from JPS Motor Sports.

I finally told them we probably didn’t have a match. I’ve walked around this circle with the Speedster too many times. As soon as you start adding all of that stuff, the cost of the vehicle skyrockets and you really DON’T have a Speedster anymore. You probably would do better with a different car. We had met “John” of JPS Motor Sports at Carlisle and he presented an instant and heroically negative account of himself with essentially no prompting or cause. A kind of viciously rude and stupid man, he made an ass of himself at every opportunity.

So I told our Japanese visitors that I didn’t think we had a match and would not in any event have anything to do with JPS at even an arms length basis.

I thought that would be the end of it, but their response the next day was that they wanted to buy Speedster Duh, have a second shipped by November 1, and if they were able to detect any interest at all in Tokyo from those two demonstrators, five more immediately.

And so we are going to make a few minor changes in Speedser Duh, new seats, side mirrors and a more readable AH meter, and ship it by August 1. We’ve contacted Special Editions and were disappointed to find the pricing on their rollers has gone up dramatically , either with time or with our new found market for them, hard to tell. But we have provisioned a red Speedster of similar specification and they are being very accommodating about scheduling and working it in quickly. They’ve always been great to work with.

So I took a few minutes to do kind of a review walk around of Speedster Duh, and point out the things that had worked better than expected, and the things we’ll just have to do better on the next build, and it is kind of illustrative of the issues you run into with ANY electric car build.

It’s also brought us face to face with the realities of all of this and the central issues of the entire Do It Yourself electric car gig. The additional funds necessary to cover hired labor and a touch of profit just price this car almost out of reach. But more importantly, there is a loss of control. We had a viewer from Europe question whether he wouldn’t be better off with a Vintage Speedsters roller instead of the Special Editions Beck Speedster as it was 3000 euros less expensive. I really didn’t quite know how to respond. It misses the whole point of everything we do all day long seven days a week.

Can you replace the Beck Speedster with a Vintage Speedster? Duh YES. You can also replace it with a Corvair, a Saab Sonnett, a Karman Ghia, or a VW bus, a military jeep, a Volvo, or a BMW. For THAT matter you can replace it with a Glastron boat. It’s YOUR build.

By eliminating the profit margin, the coverage of very real shop overhead, and the paid labor from having an electric car built, it really does add up to a significant savings. A $65,000 car becomes a $45,000 car and a $45,000 car becomes a $25,000 car. It is the ONLY way we have found to beat the game a little on the premium cost of electric car components to get a working car at a cost you could conceivably afford.

But it is STILL expensive in a sense to embark on such a project, and it should very much be a car YOU want to own and drive when you get done. Ideally one you would want to own and drive for YEARS. But that is a singular advantage to all of this YOU pick the car and you can pick PROVEN winners that you are already familiar with and love. I have no interest in a Chevy S10. But it’s an easy conversion and for some, it is the ideal electric vehicle. It will carry more batteries than you can pay for, and so gain as much range as you want – 200 miles is easy to build, just not easy to pay for all those cells. It DOES offer environmentals such as heat and A/C and rollup windows. All weather vehicle. With the manual transmission a very easy conversion. Can’t recommend it highly enough, it’s just that I don’t WANT one.

Different strokes…. Similarly Beetles. If you are A Beetle fan and into the Beetle thing and have Beetle memories from high school, its great. I personally think anyone who has ever had sex in the back of a Beetle is suspect. But Beetlemania goes far beyond Rock and Roll. It is a cult car with a BIG cult. And many many electric conversions.

Truly truly, today’s components make it really pretty easy to get into an electric car if you do it yourself. The choice of a donor, like the choice of any car, is a deeply personal and varied choice. If you stick to pretty basic cars with manual transmissions, it is just not hard to do. I would guess two guys, equipped with a LIFT, could easily work on such a thing nights and weekends and have a thoroughly done car in a month. It never happens that way because of the waiting for parts issue, which has always plagued us. We’re trying to cut some of that out with our online store, succeeding but partly.

But the point is, it is all about you. The actual act of doing the conversion, as I’ve said many times, is simply a series of small problem solving exercises. If you are patient and have sufficient mechanical ability to change your oil, you can do this.

So here’s WHY to do this:

1. You can have an electric car at a lower entry cost than buying a purpose built electric car from someone else.

2. You get to select what kind of car it is. A Mercury Cougar. A Ford Mustang. A Corvette. An MGB. A Beetle. A small pickup. A jeep. All have been successfully done many times. From the exotic to the ordinary.

3. You get an enormous level of satisfaction in the process of doing the conversion, selecting the components and fitting them to the car. IT is cleaner work, different from working on ICE cars. After you get rid of the ICE that is.

4. The personal satisfaction on that first drive of having succeeded in the conversion process. The initial EV grin is just something you have to experience to believe. I cannot give it to you nor describe it adequately to you. It can be among life’s most thrilling and satisfying moments.

5. The ongoing satisfaction of driving an electric car – you don’t go to gas stations. You don’t buy gasoline and motor oil. You just don’t DO any of that.

6. Mystery removal. By the time you get done, you’ll know and understand batteries, controllers, motors, adapter plates, DC-DC converters, fuses, cutoffs, and cabling. On your car, you will be INTIMATELY familiar with where all that is and where it is hooked up. You will no longer be a victim, wondering why your car quit. At the point where it quotes, you’ll already have a pretty good idea and often, it was something you THOUGHT you could get away with and as it turns out, you didn’t. You kind of know before you really roll to a stop.

7. Celebrity. Yes, if you drive an electric car, and especially if you BUILT that electric car, you are viewed pretty much as an authority on them, and as it is a better of interest to the exact degree that the price of gasoline rises, more of a celebrity all the time. Perfect strangers you would otherwise never meet or tolk to will stop you in store parking lots to pick your brain on what it is, how it works, how much it costs, what’s involved in living with it, etc., etc., ad nauseum. Some days you will actually tire of it, but most days it is nice to meet new people and have new conversations you might otherwise never have had.

8. The end of Victim status. There is largely a feeling, at the pump usually, of being the victim of larger forces in control that may not have your best interest at heart. Middle eastern governments, large corporations, your OWN government, all seem engaged in a massive conspiracy to treat you as chattel = serfs on their Fiefdom, and milk you for exactly the last and final ducat they can get away with. Even OEM electric car offerings with “proprietary” battery packs or recharge schemes. There’s probably a reason you feel that way. We HAVE to get around. We HAVE to get to work. We HAVE to have transportation. And we have NO choice.

Except if you build and drive your own electric car, you DO have a choice. And you have chosen it. It’s kind of like having a four foot long middle finger and knowing how to waive it. YOU are not a victim any more. If you drive an ICE car, you CHOOSE to. ANd when you choose NOT to, you drive your electric car. And there’s really not squat they can do or say about it because you did it yourself in your own garage. “I AM NOT A VICTIM so BLO ME!”

So yes, this is very much a political statement. You drive a clean car, with no emissions, and no gasoline, and really nobody can object to that in any way. IT is a peaceful civil disobedience Mahatma Ghandi would applaud. Self sufficiency. Weave your own cloth. And to see even little BITS of it happening causes fear in the status quo. Deep fear. And imagine what would happen to all those holy forts of immense resource, if it caught on, and others started doing it as well. If it got to be a “thing.”

And so I don’t see any of this going away or diminishing with future adoption and introductions by OEMs of very nice cars. Already many of our viewers ARE Leaf and Tesla and Volt owners. They not only still have their own conversions, in some cases they have three or four of them.

And so what IS the payback period for an electric car.?? Our buddy at St. Michaels Winery claims it’s 6.5 seconds – one zero to 60 acceleration. What’s the “payback period” on your big screen tv, or your wife (they’re expensive) or your kids (more expensive yet).

For myself, what price freedom? I was paid back many times over with the first drive. ANd every breath since has been about sharing the experience and encouraging others to make the same statement.

We do talk a bit about chargers and instrumentation and the work of Josh Stilwalt at RechargeCar. I think the introduction of Macchina is both seminal and disruptive.

We intend to use it to tame the Tiecheng Charger. WE may use it for more as we go.

Jack Rickard


  1. But as you said Jack, if you do the same car again and again, it will become better and better. Can’t wait to “trois”.
    I see you use the JLD7100 in Duh. What temperatur are you checking?

  2. Hey Jack

    Are you going to update Part Duh manual when you’re finished? Also, I would feel a lot more comfortable if there was a light to indicate the heater was on. So in the unlikely event of a failure of the contacts to disconnect I know the heater is still on. Would this be difficult to do?

    Best of luck with your Japanese venture.


    P.S I watched the Catholic video…not a fan I have to say. You are entitled not to read this message:) See what I did there?
    I don’t disagree with you putting it up though.

    1. We may do an update. About all it would involve would be the new meter.

      I like the light idea. Not quite sure how to implement it as we would want it to actually work from pack voltage. I guess some resistors and an LED.

      I am mystified by the angst caused by the Catholic video. I hold these beliefs strongly. errr… actually….I’m embarassed to report I just REALLY liked the music….


      1. Jack, sorry, I thought you where updating more than the meter for the new “November 1” build, but now that you mention it, thta was based on an assumption of mine. No harm updating it anyway and reintroducing it, even if the Japanese have to do their own version. I’m glad you think the warning light is a good idea.

        On the Catholic video, I guess there’s no other subject than religion that gets people hot and bothered because people internalise their believes so that an “attack” on their religion becomes a deeply personal attack. Whether you are religious, or non religious people seem to get fairly ticked off when the subject of religion comes up. Whether you hold believes based on evidence, or for religious/evidential reasons, I believe your believes becomes part of your identity. And people can be touchy, you don’t even have to actually say anything offensive and tempers flare. Simply pointing to the elephant in the room is enough. Of course, I am not saying you are attacking anyone’s believes, I am just putting forward a reason for why people might get a little peeed off.

        I personally couldn’t give a toss as long as the main theme of your videos was about electric vehicles and converting cars to electric.


      2. Must admit. Was in this ladies flat the other weekend. She has a room set up for her coven. Sat down to stroke her black cat… It was an oddly friendly and homely feeling room. Made the rest of her flat feel horrible in comparison. She had a ride in Tims van. Came back beaming from ear to ear. Had no idea an old van could feel so good. After our night out we waving them off as it pulled away silently and effortlessly. It does leave an impression.

        Sad to see Duh go. But it might become many. Once the Japanese get hold…, I’ll have two!

        A little after British aerospace (Now Bae Systems) bought Rover cars, mine developed a fault in the HT. They replaced all of it outside the cars warrantee for free. The mechanic came to me, explained the problem and humbly apologised saying the coil should not break down.. The change in mindset from the same dealers people in one year was one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen!
        Other manu’frs should take note.

        Kirk Sorenson of FLIBE (LFTR’s) was told by a high ranking military man. If you want to know who is causing all these middle East wars, next to the pump. look in the mirror.

        Hey Jack, if those guys sort out a fully protected canbus arduino.. Maybe with extra ports to knock off the j1772 supply, socket detection to limit current to use lighter plugs, maybe a temperature probe? etc. It will be one killer sale.

        Lastly, some people I know have made inroads with the EU CALB supplier. He will offer a guarantee only if you use a “proper bms”. Bit of a stinker in some peoples minds.

        Glad to see you Jack and Brian all happy.

  3. The refresh on Duh and the stuff on chargers were exquisitely timed for me (sorting out what bits to order). Thank you.

    One cell getting a bit weak on my test pack. The others not showing much wear and tear after 500+ cycles.

    I’m not a Roman Catholic and this isn’t the place for a bunfight over religion, but I liked the fact that you feel free to include a reminder that grappling with our problems is about more than politics, economics and technology

  4. I’d absolutely endorse what Jack was saying about the risk of Arduinos getting lost when the charger kicks in. My experience precisely when I was trying to get my test rig to work. Switching on the charger (even manually with no connection between Arduino and charger) had a similar effect to whacking someone on the head with a piece of lead piping: confusion and amnesia

    1. Went all BMS on you John?
      I once made a “light pen” for a home computer as a form of early mouse. Dead proud! I designed it. It discriminated bad signals, machine code for speed, very usable. Second time I used it I switched on the screen and ‘click’. A little spark leaped from the screen to the pen. The charge obviously hit the computers ADC chip which had my two pen switches. One dead ADC and a several week wait for a radio ham rally to get a fresh chip. The core of any circuit is always the easy bit. The rest takes a little thought after the smoke has cleared.

      Motto: make it like an AK47. Can bury it in mud, dig your mates grave with it, use it as a jemmy to open up the officers larder and if uncle Joe Stalin gives you a bullet, go to war and it still works.

      I cabbage head. Forgot…. Happy belated birthday Jack!

  5. Update on the battery testing segment from last week.

    Cell 6 started sickening about a week ago and slipped away quietly yesterday during cycle 576. Donations to EVTV in lieu of flowers.

    It should be noted that I’ve been charging these cells at way over their recommended C rate. The sad story is graphed at http://tovey-books.co.uk/testing.php.

    I think the data pretty much suggests that automated balancing is unnecessary with this cell chemistry, which is what Jack has been saying all along, and which I set out to put some numbers on. Indeed I am beginning to suspect that “top balancing” on voltage might be unbalancing the cells in terms of capacity – but I need to work through 2 months data to be certain

    1. John, I believe there is a small difference in the drain a celllog8 puts on the cells in that it’s powered by cells 1-6 and doesn’t drain power from cells 7-8. There’s a jumper that you can solder internally to avoid this and a description of this problem can be found in the DIY forums.

      1. The problem with the Celllog 8S and 8M is cells 1-6 power the entire device while 7 and 8 power only an op-amp. I’ve had several packs using the Celllog continuously go out of balance. I now put the jumper across the upper 2 combining diodes on every unit so that cells 7 and 8 power the entire device. No more problems seeing cells 7 & 8 reach full charge while the rest still need charge.

    2. Great work on battery testing. I considered the Headway cells for my motorcycle as well, but decided to go with CALBs instead.

      Any chance of getting a Kindle version of your book? I’d like to save some trees in addition to being ICE free.

      1. You’re the second person who has suggested Kindle recently, so I shall have to think about it. I’ve held off so far because given the large number of illustrations (many of the greyscale) I felt it would need a layout redesign, plus I’d want to get permission from all the contributors of photos. Both of these are very labour intensive. I’m hoping to do a simplified Chinese/English parallel translation sometime though (a Chinese friend is working on the Chinese text but I will want to simplify the English text and remove much of the slang.

        1. Pictures are quite useless on a Kindle version when you’re reading on a phone like I do. Preferably the contents should be in writing as well instead of just referring to a chart you won’t be able to zoom in on. Usually I can’t be bothered to open the laptop and instead just skip any information that’s not immediately visible.

          In any case I will buy a Kindle copy and any copy is better than no copy at all. If I’m not mistaken you can go back and update the book later as well. As long as you don’t completely rearrange the contents it might be an option.

  6. Jack, I just spotted this well-researched article about charging EVs on the “dirty” power grid. Glad to have more arguments to shoot down the “Your EV is dirtier than an ICE” strawman. Of course, charging my 914 on my 8.3KW home solar system is about as clean as I can get.


    Conclusion paragraphs:

    Even with fairly dirty electricity, EVs are cleaner than ICEs. We only need to get to an average marginal generation CO2 intensity of 500g/kWh to have a Model S be cleaner than a Prius — and many markets are already there. The only modern generation technology that is worse than this is coal, and even it can be improved with carbon capture & storage technologies. Comparing like-for-like, the Model S Performance is cleaner than a Mercedes E400 hybrid even if it’s running on a reasonably modern coal plant output.

    If you see a new EV buyer lobbying for new coal plants, then you can perhaps accuse them of environmental ignorance. Otherwise, give them a pat on the back: they’ve put a decent chunk of their money on the line and braved a new technology to make the switch. As long as we don’t totally fail the energy generation challenge, it’s a switch with a huge net benefit for everyone. EVs are not perfect, but they beat the snot out of any like-for-like midterm alternative on the radar today

  7. Thanks Don: I think actually it is the other way around Excessive drain from 7 and 8), but anyway I sidestepped that whole issue by using Op Amps driven by pack voltage to isolate the cell tappings. With the op amps in line, I can’t detect a flicker on a microammeter inserted into the cell tapping circuit.

    This is critical for long term testing: if each cell tapping takes only a 35microamps, the difference in current drain between the most negative and most positive cell is over 2 milliamps. The cells have a capacity of 10000 milliamp hours, so over 2000 hours of testing, you would unbalance the pack substantially.

  8. probably more relevant when I tried to post it 3 days ago, but in case anyone missed it…

    off topic this week, but I came across a great video with Elon Musk where he discusses some of his other ideas for companies. One would be a transport system that could get you from LA to SF in 30 minutes and another is a supersonic jet that was driven by electric. Very interesting stuff.


  9. Fuel cells: convert natural gas to hydrogen, ship the hydrogen across the country, shove it in a fuel tank and drive the car with it. Hey, how about we cut out the middleman and drive the car on the natural gas directly? Or convert a different fossil fuel to a more convenient liquid form: maybe what our esteemed American friends call “gasoline”?

    1. For a couple of reasons. First, the natural gas at my house is 4psi. In order to carry enough to go 100 miles, I have to compress it to 2600 psi and put it in a heavy and expensive pressure tank. To compress it, it takes ALL night with a little compressor at home and uses about as much electricity to do THAT as to drive my electric car.

      So I’ve got another idea. Why don’t we just use the natural gas to make electricity, and you can send me THAT over the electrical wires already connected to my house. I’ll plug in and charge the car overnight instead.

      As many times as you walk around in this circle, it comes back to teh same place. Batteries and magnetic motors.

      ALl else is vanity. The more complicated you make it, the more complex it becomes. But it never gets better, it just keeps getting worse.

      Jack Rickard

      1. Chad Olivieri

        Not to mention, a larger % of homes are wired for electricity than are plumbed with CNG. Requiring people to still go stand next to a pump/tank.

        (most of eastern Washington state is not CNG land. Hydro power is too cheap there.)

        1. The only reason to push fool cells is to ensure the long term survival of the centralised “gas station” and big oil companies.

          It’s amazing how easily propagandised the people became over it. At $8/litre and 100 miles range everyone propounded it as the bee’s knee’s???

          My only wish is to perfect this kind of mind control as my mediocre superpower.

  10. On a different topic, we got some film today of the motor being dropped out of the Civic (it needs a four post lift as it comes out downwards). So now have an empty engine bay the size of a hen house, and a turbo-diesel to sell on ebay. With that gone part of the EV grin on this car will be because it no longer drives like a pram dinghy with a dozen anvils in the front locker

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